On 26 June the heads of the International Trade Centre (ITC), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) announced the rollout of an improved and expanded Global Trade Helpdesk.
The platform now contains more trade information designed to empower firms of all sizes, particularly micro, small, and medium-size enterprises (MSMEs), to take advantage of market opportunities and adapt to new post-Covid commercial realities.
This initiative was created as a user-friendly digital platform (www.globaltradehelpdesk.org) that empowers MSMEs by providing a one-stop shop where businesses can find up-to-date trade statistics, export potential estimations, tariffs, regulatory requirements, as well as information about voluntary standards, and contact information for key public and private partners.
Since its inception in 2017, the World Customs Organization (WCO) has been supporting the ITC, Unctad and the WTO on the Global Trade Helpdesk initiative, together with the African Development Bank (AfDB), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), World Bank Group (WBG) and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
As the centre of Customs expertise, the WCO has been providing its support on making available relevant border-related information, especially in the areas of Rules of Origin and Authorised Economic Operators.
The platform has now been revamped to better respond to firms’ needs. It expands data coverage and offers a more intuitive user experience through improved design and new functionalities. Users can now compare updated export potential estimations across different prospective target markets. To simplify market research for businesses, the Global Trade Helpdesk now includes Covid-19 resources from across international agencies, including information about temporary restrictions enacted in response to the crisis.
The platform also provides improved coverage of trade statistics, import, export and transit trade procedures, a new business directory, resources to help protect intellectual property rights, as well as online resources from various agencies to build their trade and market analysis skills. The platform is now accessible in Russian in addition to Arabic, English, French and Spanish.
As policymakers work to lay the groundwork for a strong and sustainable recovery from the crisis, the success or failure of MSMEs – which employ the majority of the labour force – will play a key role in determining whether or not this recovery is socially inclusive. Ready access to trade and market information is a challenge for smaller firms in the best of times, since they have fewer resources to devote to analysing complex information across multiple sources. As businesses struggle with uncertainty, falling demand, and supply chain disruptions, getting the information they need to reach new customers and markets will be paramount.
The launch of the revamped Global Trade Helpdesk coincided with the United Nation’s Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day on 27 June supporting an inclusive post-pandemic recovery.
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Story by: Riaan de Lange